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There is a lot of buzz around the upcoming 5G standard for mobile device communication. At first glance, this will be great for individual smartphones, tablets, mobile hotspots and more, but the reality is that 5G will prove to be a bigger, fundamental enabler for IoT solutions.
I also dispute there will be new challenges introduced. Before we get to the challenges, let’s wrap our heads around the good news that comes with 5G.
How 5G improves IoT projects
The main benefits of 5G will be enhanced bandwidth and reduced latency for devices defined from the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP). For IoT uses, this will introduce options for many critical applications.
One emerging area for IoT will be effectively gathering real-time information. 3GPP has two types of technologies that will help IoT scale: enhanced Machine-Type Communication (eMTC) and Narrowband IoT (NB-IoT). These both focus on reducing complexity, having better device density and establishing more power efficiency. eMTC is associated with real-time items, such as wearables and personal IoT use cases. NB-IoT focuses on solutions where latency is more tolerable and a lower amount of data needs to be transfered. Additionally, some of these solutions can have more than 10 years of battery life. Couple the mobility with a battery like this and organizations can overcome some of the barriers to implementing an IoT solution.
To put some perspectives on a number of changes in place here, both eMTC and NB-IoT implementations will benefit. Qualcomm is very interested in the milestone that 5G brings, and has produced a visual roadmap of what 5G will enable with 3GPP capabilities. All the benefits — better positioning, better battery life, better real-time uses, serious scale and more coupled with the better performance — go beyond what IT pros expected just a few years ago.
IoT faces potential challenges with 5G
I mentioned there are some considerations to pay attention to. When we make these types of changes and introduce this type of scale, the backend solution better be ready to support it. The amount of data, data transfer and the number of devices connected will introduce some particular concerns that need to be taken into account.
I would go so far to say that the only practical way to build IoT solutions on serious scale based on 5G is through the hyperscale public clouds in many situations. Of course, a strong recommendation like that requires answering detailed questions around the specific use case. The reality is that a solution that deploys thousands of IoT devices that provide real-time data or rich media could potentially saturate communication lines and storage resources of a traditional data center quite rapidly. The hyperscale public clouds will provide the scalability to match this significant change coming for IoT solutions.
5G is a big deal, and it’s more than just what we will keep in our pocket. Because of that, we need to consider the business impact of a 5G solution. Will the IoT solution powered by 5G provide an overall benefit? Will the IoT solution powered by 5G uncover bottlenecks or introduce capacity constraints to existing services, platforms and resources?
My practical advice is to ensure the cloud is part of the IoT solution organizations choose, and it is powered by 5G from the start. This will help organizations avoid complicated problems later that can put the whole IoT solution value at risk.
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